World archaeological experts fascinated by Sungai Batu ancient site

Researchers at Sungai Batu archaeological site, which is recognised as one of the oldest sites of human civilisation in Southeast Asia, have found some remains of an ancient ship. — Bernama pix
Researchers at Sungai Batu archaeological site, which is recognised as one of the oldest sites of human civilisation in Southeast Asia, have found some remains of an ancient ship. — Bernama pix

SUNGAI PETANI, May 21 — World renowned archaeological experts who gathered here to attend the Kedah Tua International Conference (KTIC) were fascinated by the Sungai Batu ancient site during a visit here, today.

Though there were many questions raised by participants during the guided tour led by Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Director of Centre for Global Archaeological Research, Professor Datuk Dr Mokhtar Saidin, they are nevertheless in awe.

The Director of the Institute of Archaeology and Social Anthropology at the University of Peshawar, Professor Nasim Khan, was amazed by the discoveries at the Sungai Batu archaeological site saying that he had learned and seen so many things about the ancient civilisation here.

“We discussed so many things about the iron smelting and about the ancient structures that still hold so many questions about what the structures are for,” he told Bernama at the site during the visit.

According to Nasim, who is on his third visit here, he had no doubt that the findings and the dates were credible, noting that there were different measures to dating a site including analysing solid materials and using scientific measures such as carbon-dating technique.

“Sometimes we have material evidence such as potteries, inscriptions or coins that can be analysed to date a site. Unfortunately we didn’t find any coins, very few shells and I think no inscriptions too for this site.

“But as far as scientific dating is concerned, they (Prof Mokhtar and his team) have done a lot and they are sure that the date they are proposing could be as what they said (535 B.C.),” he said, adding that Sungai Batu could possibly be the oldest ancient site in the South-east Asian region.

Expert on Mesoamerican civilisation at Vanderbilt Institute of Mesoamerican, United States, Professor Arthur Demarest said it was amazing to have top experts from each part of the world to compare and get the sense of how the Sungai Batu site fitted into other regions.

According to him, history in the Maya era in Central America was interesting because unlike Sungai Batu, where the iron production had continued, the iron production there attracted other powers and led to a great deal of warfare in the region and it ended.

“One of the thing that is fascinating here is the continuity over such a long period in the iron production. Not sure if the public realised, but when iron comes in, everything changed.

Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Director of Centre for Global Archaeological Research, Professor Datuk Dr Mokhtar Saidin (right) takes participants on a guided tour around the Sungai Batu ancient site.
Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Director of Centre for Global Archaeological Research, Professor Datuk Dr Mokhtar Saidin (right) takes participants on a guided tour around the Sungai Batu ancient site.

“Any civilisation that has iron will win the war because they have efficient tools. So the civilisation just has this tremendous impact whenever it (iron) comes in. This is really very important,” he told a press conference here after the visit.

Meanwhile for Nahar Cahyandaru, a conservator at the Borobudur Conservation Office, Indonesia, the Sungai Batu archaeological site could be a world ancient site in the future.

“We have received very good explanation from Prof Mokhtar and I have noted some strong statements from him. One of them is that this site is the oldest site or oldest bricks structure in South-east Asia.

“Also how the iron industry is the oldest one in the region or maybe the only one. Those were some of the statements that make this site very important,” he said.

The two-day Kedah Tua International Conference kicks off tomorrow, which among others highlights the Kedah Tua or Old Kedah civilisation and its significance in South-east Asia, besides discussing global archaeology.

Held in conjunction with the Old Kedah Festival 2016, the conference will also touch on the importance of archaeology at the Bujang Valley, and draw comparisons between all major civilisations during the 6th century BCE to the 12th century. — Bernama